Tuesday, February 19, 2008
A Circle is a Necessity
I had been out at South’s with my friend Brian last week - post-Happy Endings - and he was raving about this show. It’s called “In Circles,” and he did a production of it in LA back in ’86. It’s based on a Gertrude Stein text called “A Circular Play.”
The music was written by a man named Al Carmines, whose music is apparently highly regarded, but not widely known. He died about three years ago, and had been a minister at Judson Memorial in addition to working in the theatre in New York. He wrote the music for the Stein piece, and premiered it at Judson over forty years ago. And it’s astonishing.
As B. growled at me at South's, “It's great. And you KNOW I hate that shit.”
It’s done in a circle at Judson, everyone seated around. Cast of 9, wonderful singer/actors. Brian pointed out that two of them in the cast had been in the LA production with him twenty years ago. It’s a group of friends with very defined relationships, although who they are is not delineated in a traditional sense. They fight, love, eat, make up, talk each other off ledges and deal with unrequited feelings for each other. Then one of them dies in a war. The friends pick up and go on.
The words are strange, banal, everyday and resonant – ‘A circle is a necessity. We each each have our circle.” Lyrics about strawberries, yellow flowers, hats, paintings. ‘Stay in your circle and do not despair.’ It was strange, funny and profoundly moving. (Brian commented how much the production had deepened since LA in the eighties. Same director.) And the music is just stunning – very simple, catchy on the surface, resonant and rich in its repetition. Like Stein’s words, but without any whiff of artiness or ‘high’ music. Martin Denton wrote a lovely review of it here.
It only has four more shows. If at all possible, go see it.